Sunday, March 22, 2009

First impressions: A review of RAtheMC’s mixtape "Are You Not Entertained?" by K.Scribe


(Photo by Fresh Pair of DMVs)

My introduction to RAtheMC was at Black Church Maraca, an event that is always spilling over with talent. She stood before the crowd, no one’s muse but her own, and renouncing any ounce of anxiety she’d ever felt. Ra didn’t fling lyrics at her audience. Instead, she delivered her rhymes as if they were gifts for her artists to unwrap. In short, she rocked the mic.

The voice, the style, the swag, and I’m too old to say swag, but there is no other word befitting her presence. I was put on to her mixtape by Collins, and I absorbed the tracks in what felt like as natural a process as osmosis. The mixtape’s title, Are You Not Entertained? plays off of the Russell Crowe flick, “Gladiator.” Clever, right? Clever is as clever does, because what follows is a delectable earful of Ra’s sophisticated wordplay. The question dares its listeners to go beyond the numbing of a great beat, but challenges us to really hear her. The tracks are produced by several producers, including Judah, Neako, Go Getta and Street Level, but stitched together by DJ M.A.F. Producer, Judah’s influence is definitely felt heaviest, as he’s the beat-pusher on at least five of the tracks. This emcee’s mixtape is a creatively woven tale of love sought, fame looming, and growth all out of soil comprised of Ra and producer, Judah’s strength.

The mix begins with a Fresh Prince flavored intro, “We Suffer” featuring Brooklyn-based Theophilus London (produced by Neako). London delivers excellent poetry and ends the track by saying, he’s “officially co-signing” RAtheMC. From the beginning of the mixtape, Ra carves out an image for herself, citing her originality and comparing The Norm’s (the empty wordplay circulating airways) talents to the materialism they worship. Instead, Ra makes it clear that yes, she enjoys material things. However, it does not define her as an artist, nor does it govern her flow. Instead, Ra offers a bit of depth with the lyrics. She chooses to inject our psyches with such parables like Brenda (an offspring of Tupac’s Brenda’s Got a Baby), a tale of dreams deferred in pursuit of love’s façade. She sings, “Ain’t it funny how the times rewind, and come back. You lookin’ forward but you walkin’ behind/ (so what’s that) you call it a price/I call it a vice and if not then I’m calling it life.” This profundity can be found throughout the tape, because it’s an essential characteristic of Ra’s music. Even in “You Can’t Win,” she raps, “They say be careful what you rappin’ in your music/ you give too much of yourself you might lose it/I keep too much of myself I might lose it/If I don’t give it to y’all then it’s useless.” Verses like this elevate her above just being witty, desiring us all to look underneath the rhythm for meaning.

Speaking of rhythm, in “Brenda,” Ra and Judah join forces to create a musical marriage that is worthy of a memorable wedding gift - a solid record deal. Judah’s productions possess an elusive sound, guaranteed to morph to fit the artist’s style. His approach to production allows Ra’s perspective on the way music should be heard to emerge - BTW Judah, superb Handsome Boy Modeling School sample. This is a crucial need for a growing artist - in fact it’s like water to a seed. Announcing itself with trumpet blasts befitting of hip hop royalty and a continuous stutter-step is another favorite “Get Me.” This song is at the top for its musical score. Though Ra is only on the track forty-five seconds, she delivers a strong verse by being sure to let listeners know the source of her passion.

Though this album is Judah heavy, we can’t sleep on the other producers on this tape, Neako and Go Getta definitely put it down with “We Suffer” and “Fantasy,” respectively. These are tracks in which we probably hear more of Ra’s creativity. We also get a feel for how she’d be received by the media at large, because these tracks possess a commercial sound. On that level, she exceeds expectations, making it sound so damn, easy, but so damn honest. Still, the emcee adds her District vernacular to it to make it her own.

Props are given to the posthumously released J Dilla album, Donuts, for the instrumentals for “Imperfection” and “We knew you was a star.” The two tracks used are “Dilla Says Go” and “Gobbstopper,” respectively.

DJ M.A.F. contributes his own morsels of creativity with The Warriors (1979) and well placed Crowe samples, exclaiming, "Are you entertained?" These bytes are well placed and add just the right continuity to the tracks, while reinforcing Ra's theme.

Hopefully, like so many, fame, the promise of fortune, and city lights won’t blind this young artist. If she can escape the glass ceiling of DC, then she can change the rules to the game.

Overall, Are You Not Entertained? is definitely a mix tape to get your ears in on---it’ll challenge you, move you (literally), and enlighten you. Oh and how could I forget, it’ll most definitely, definitely entertain you. But, Ra, you knew that I already…

-K.Scribe

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dope review..thanks for posting! :)

Greg said...

What is with anonymous comments? Anyway I will move on K.Scribe great review plus I heard some of Mrs. RatheMC's music and I am going to listen for more.

Congrats on Joining the Glass House DC Staff K.Scribe. Waiting to read more from you.

The Glass House said...

K.Scribe actually left that as a j/k lol

K. Scribe said...

Greg,

Thanks for reading..means a lot coming from a fellow blogger. I just love creating dialogue, let me know what you think about her mix tape, too. I'll def. make my way over to your blog.

peace,
k.scribe